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A new Clemmons

BY JACOB SHEYKO | NOVEMBER 03, 2014 5:00 AM

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The last time Iowa guard Anthony Clemmons donned the Hawkeye uniform — a 78-64 loss to Tennessee — it may have marked the low-point of his basketball career.

For the 11th-straight game, Clemmons failed to log more than eight minutes of playing time. He hadn’t started all season and averaged just 2.4 points per game. His role as a bench player had been minimalized to a mere minute here and there.

In his first game since that season-ending loss, Clemmons started for Iowa as it defeated Northwood in an exhibition match, 92-51.  

“It tells you I’m a strong man,” Clemmons said after being asked what it means to start. “I was really hurt [after the Tennessee loss], and I still got a taste of it in my mouth.”

Clemmons stats don’t pop out. He made one 3-pointer, grabbed a rebound, and had 2 assists. But to anyone watching the game, Clemmons was Iowa’s catalyst on the defensive end.

In just 15 minutes of playing time, he collected 4 steals.

All game long, Clemmons picked up whomever he was guarding at half court and stayed in his pocket until the possession was over. More often than not, he guarded Northwood’s best scorer, Chris Solomon, who averaged 20.5 points per game last season.  

It wasn’t a solo act, but Clemmons helped hold Solomon to 4 points on 2-of-8 shooting. And while Northwood may be an National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics school, no one took it lightly.

“They played pretty well,” forward Aaron White said. “They made some tough shots. You look down their roster, and they’ve got eight seniors … they’ve got a good team.”

Offensively, Clemmons looked more aggressive, too. There was even one situation where, after stealing the ball for the second-straight possession, he led the fast break and tried to dunk it over a Northwood defender.

He missed, but it speaks volume about his confidence level. It’s hard to imagine Clemmons even attempting a dunk like that late last season.

But at the end of the day, it all comes back to defense. That and health were the two main reasons Clemmons started.

“Right now, Clemmons has been the most consistent guy from the opening day of practice until now, and he earned that position,” head coach Fran McCaffery said, noting that the team’s identity changes to be more defensively oriented with Clemmons on the floor.

That defense can be contagious. Even when Clemmons wasn’t guarding the ball, fellow starter Mike Gesell and Trey Dickerson could be seen giving Northwood guards fits.

The three of them combined for 9 steals, which contributed to Iowa scoring 29 points on turnovers.

“What got me there was bringing it every day in practice, competing,” Clemmons said. “Bringing the fight that I usually do, bringing the fight on defense. I think that’s what separated me from everybody else on the team; I can really get after it on defense. Definitely when I’m mad.”

Clemmons said he took care of his body over the summer, cleaning up his diet and training three times a day. But he also took a different approach to the off-season mentally.

At the team’s media day, Clemmons said he went home to Lansing, Michigan, for about a month and a half and talked to as many people as he could — friends, family, former players, and coaches, gathering “knowledge.”

He cleared his head, got back to what he does best — hard work and defense, and ultimately got back the confidence that he lost last season.

After the game, Clemmons was asked whether he was surprised that he started. He answered confidently with a resounding no.

“Was I surprised? No,” he said. “This is what I worked for. I earned everything I got.

“Being in the starting lineup doesn’t really mean anything. I can’t relax just because I’m a starter now, because you’ve seen before, I’ve been pulled out of the starting lineup before. I’ve got to keep going after it.”

Follow @JacobSheyko on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa men’s basketball team.


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